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Pasumai Thaayagam Confronts GMOs' Supporters:
"Rice is life – Not corporate business"

March 12, 2004

CHENNAI – India: Activists from Pasumai Thaayagam (Green Motherland, a environmental action group in South India) surprised GMOs supporters – Gerard Barry, Golden Rise Network Coordinator, IRRI and former Monsanto employee; William James Peacock, Chief, CSIRO Canberra, Australia; M.K. Bhan, Secretary, Department of Biotechnology, Govt. of India, with a banner stating. "International Year of Rice 2004, Rice is life - Not Corporate business, Say No to GMOs - Genetically Modified Organisms, Don’t let big business rule the world" in events that were organized by the M S Swaminathan Research Foundation at Chennai, India. The activists distributed a pamphlet on 'corporate control over rice’.

Pasuami Thaayagam banner

The MSSRF had organized two events on March 12 and 13, 2004 in Chennai to commemorate the occasion of the 'International Year of Rice 2004' – 1. National Colloquium on Molecular Breeding and Shaping the Future of Rice, 2. Forum on Biotechnology and the future of rice. Both events were largely represented and dominated by panelists who favored the introduction of the GM seeds for increasing food production.

Voicing his concern, Dr. R. Anbumani, President, Pasumai Thaayagam, released a press release which states "Today's industrial agriculture system compromises the very earth on which all our future food needs depend. The failures of the current approach to farming threaten the rich and poor. Rather then growing food to meet the needs of local communities for healthy, diverse diet, industrial agriculture produces crops to sell on world markets.

Rice is the main staple of South Indians and therefore our agricultural systems have historically been rice growing. The growth rate of rice production in India had comedown drastically from 3.0 percent per annum during the period 1985-89 to 1.5 percent currently. In certain pockets, the growth rates have remained stagnant. This is the direct outcome of the Green Revolution, which blindly copied western methods of farming that used heavy doses of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides, resulting in incalculable damage to the soil. The impact of Green Revolution on our lands and water as also the future and the divide it created amongst the rich and poor is well known. Let us remind those who tell us that the Green Revolution brought in food surplus that a) it fed only those who were already quite well fed and b) 1/3 of Indian population is still malnourished.

Hunger and poverty go hand in hand. Technological 'solutions' like genetic engineering (GE) overshadow the real social and environmental problems that cause hunger. The argument that GE is vital to feed the world and has a central role to play in enhancing agriculture productivity is based on the assumption that hunger is the result of too little food. GE proponents ignore the fact that most hungry people live in countries that have a surplus of food rather then deficit.

Pasumai Thaayagam demands real solutions. The future for farming lies in recognizing its role not only in the production of food, but also in providing clean water, diverse wildlife and plants, and the fertile soil on which the future depends.

Pasumai Thaayagam will strongly oppose the development, cultivation, and import/export of genetically modified rice because it ignores food safety, weakens both domestic and global agriculture, and negatively impacts the environment. And also because the future of our children and the country is at stake."

Pasumai Thaayagam (Green Motherland)
No. 9, Lyn Wood Lane, Mahalingapuram, CHENNAI – 600 034
Tamil Nadu, India


U.S. State Dept. Promotes Biotech Crops, Food

by Carey Gillam
March 13, 2004

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The U.S. government has launched a new Web site about biotech crops as part of a special taxpayer-funded project to promote such crops worldwide -- a move criticized by some consumer and farm groups.

The efforts, which come amid a tense global debate over genetically modified foods, outrage opponents, who say the Bush administration is using taxpayer money to support corporate interests for a potentially unsafe technology.

"The government is more interested in promoting the interests of major corporations, rather than the interests of family farmers and general citizens," said Michael Hanson, a spokesman for Consumers Union.

The State Department says the project serves a variety of interests and is important to help establish acceptance of an often-misunderstood technology.

The Web site (, which was launched last month, provides information about a range of biotech crops -- from cotton to sweet corn -- and outlines the government's efforts to "ensure new biotechnology products are safe for the environment and human and animal health."

It is the latest in a multipronged initiative by the State Department to "encourage broader adoption and acceptance of biotechnology in the developing world," according to Deborah Malac, chief of the Biotechnology and Textile Trade Policy Division of the State Department's Office of Agricultural, Biotechnology and Textile Trade Affairs.

Malac said her office manages a "Biotechnology Support" fund, which is receiving $500,000 this year on top of $1 million over the past two years. The funds -- the first to be designated by the State Department for any special agricultural promotion -- are used to send speakers abroad, to fund workshops for "decision makers" and to facilitate regulator-to-regulator meetings, she said.

Malac said the State Department so far has won small "victories," including agreement by the Philippines to allow planting of biotech corn and India's acceptance of biotech cotton.

There have been recent news reports out of the Philippines of fears that the biotech corn may have triggered health problems in people and animals, but the United States has said those concerns are unfounded.

Opponents of biotech crops say the government should be spending taxpayer money to fully evaluate the risks of the crops, rather than relying on corporate assurances of safety.

Moreover, they say, a free market society should not be forcing an unwanted product on the rest of the world.

"The State Department's promotion of an unpopular technology shows that these companies are having to turn to the Bush administration ... to basically force these crops on people," said Ronnie Cummins, national director of the Organic Consumers Organization. He noted the U.S. government provides no funding to promote organic foods abroad.

The move by the State Department comes at a critical point in the global debate over biotech crops. China recently approved imports of U.S. biotech soybeans and Britain said it would allow commercial planting of genetically modified maize.

Still, most of the European Union, Japan, Egypt and many other countries are reluctant to open their borders to biotech crops. The Bush administration is fighting the opposition on many fronts.

The government has a complaint pending with the World Trade Organization over the EU's reluctance to accept the technology. And last month U.S. negotiators refused to sign a deal struck by nearly 90 countries to more closely regulate international trade in genetically modified crops.

Global acceptance of biotech is critical to many U.S. companies, particularly St. Louis-based Monsanto Co., which is the leading developer of genetic modifications to crops. Monsanto has engineered crops that do not die when sprayed with weedkiller and can ward off threatening insects.

Acceptance is also important to U.S. farmers, who are the largest producers of biotech crops in the world.

The Biotechnology Industry Association, which represents Monsanto and other biotech companies and has provided input to the State Department, said the government's work to promote biotech crops is helpful.

"For the government to go in and offer objective information that is non-company specific is certainly credible," said BIA spokeswoman Lisa Dry. "The State Department clearly sees value in this technology and they are trying to share that with other countries."


Excerpt From: Sudan: Peace Agreement Around the Corner?

Testimony of Roger Winter to the U.S. House of Representatives
Committee on International Relations
Subcommittee on Africa
March 11, 2004

Mr. Chairman, Committee Members, thank you for allowing me to come and share my thoughts and insights on Sudan with you. Congressional attention on Sudan will be critical in how the events of the next few years unfold. As you know, the Government of Sudan (GOS) and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) have made significant progress in negotiating a North-South peace agreement, although they have not yet been able to bring it to a successful conclusion. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is poised to assist the Sudanese in their economic recovery and prevention of future conflict once an agreement is reached. However, it is also critical to point out the concerns we have, particularly with humanitarian access, one of the three pillars of U.S. foreign policy in Sudan.


Finally, I must inform you that as of March 7, 2004, USAID has ceased all further food aid shipments to Port Sudan due to the GOS'(Government of Sudan) insistence that US commodities be certified free of genetically modified organisms ("GMO"). When this issue first arose in May, 2003, we informed the GOS that the United States does not provide such certifications. We did, however, send a team of scientists to Khartoum to explain the extensive regulatory standards that all food commodities in the United States must meet, whether for domestic or foreign consumption, and to discuss the Government's health and scientific concerns. The United States is the major donor of food aid to Sudan, providing some 70% of the World Food Program's total pipeline for the country. The majority of US-donated food aid enters the country through Port Sudan, including 40% of all food aid intended for southern Sudan.

In October, 2003, the Government of Sudan issued an extension of the waiver on their earlier decree requiring certification that food aid brought into Sudan be free from bio-engineering, thus enabling USAID to continue food aid shipments to the country. This extension comes to a close on July 8, 2004, but because the normal time for U.S. Title II humanitarian food assistance to be procured and transported to Sudan is four months, we are now past the point at which we can be sure that US commodities arriving in Port Sudan will be allowed to clear customs and move swiftly to the populations in need. USAID policy since the GOS issuance of this policy has been to continue shipment of humanitarian food assistance as long as food aid would arrive and clear customs for distribution to beneficiaries prior to the deadline date on this extension. The US is prepared to make additional food commitments to the humanitarian crises in Sudan, but we cannot do so as long as this issue is outstanding. We are informed by the United Nations that food stocks for relief operations will be exhausted by April/May of this year. Mr. Chairman, the potential humanitarian consequences of this pipeline break for the needy in Sudan cannot be over emphasized.


Roger Winter is Assistant Administrator
Bureau of Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance
United States Agency for International Development


Angola Moves To Ban GM Products

By Zoe Eisenstein
BBC News
March 19, 2004

In Luanda, Angola's agriculture minister has said genetically-modified foods should be banned from the country as their impact on human and animal health is unknown.

Gilberto Lutucuta said more effort must be made to check if products entering Angola were genetically modified.

He added that the Angolan government should train more personnel to perform the checks.

But a World Food Programme official said it was not clear if the decision had already been put into practice.

The officials said it was not clear whether the organisation - which feeds close to two million Angolans each month - would be given some time to adapt to the decision.

Impact on vulnerable

He added that, although he had been aware for some time that government had been discussing the issue, the WFP had never been officially informed about the details of any plan to ban GM foods entering the country.

But he stressed that the WFP's official policy would see it respect any decision taken by government regarding GM food importation.

However, in a country still emerging from a civil conflict and where many people are hungry, any action slowing down or squeezing the food pipeline could have a direct impact on those most vulnerable.

One foreign aid worker told the BBC it was not clear if the ban included food donations as well as commercial imports.

The source said that a total ban on GM foods could complicate the food chain coming from the United States - the WFP's largest food donor - as the US does not differentiate between GM and non-GM foods.

But, the source said the ban would not affect cash donations made by other donors because the WFP could buy GM-free food with the money.

Other African countries have stood their ground on GM foods.

With Angola - a potential food basket in the region - also joining hands on the issue, it looks likely that the resistance to the importation of GM foods will gain strength.


Japanese Consumers Tell Canada To Stop GM Wheat

By Roberta Rampton
March 22, 2004

WINNIPEG, Manitoba, March 22 (Reuters) - Japan will stop buying Canadian wheat if Canada approves a variety of genetically modified wheat, a delegation of Japanese consumer groups warned on Monday.

Bearing a petition signed by 414 Japanese organizations and companies, and saying that they represent more than 1.1 million people, the activists said they wanted to take their message to Canadian politicians in person.

"We will reject GM wheat," said Keisuke Amagasa of the No! GMO Campaign. "If GM wheat is approved and commercial planting begins here, we will take action to prevent the import of wheat from Canada."

Japanese consumers are worried that biotech crops have not had enough testing to prove they are safe, Amagasa said.

Japan is one of Canada's biggest wheat markets, buying an average of 1.3 million tonnes a year.

Genetically modified wheat is not yet grown commercially, but Canadian and U.S. regulators for more than a year have been reviewing safety data for a variety developed by Monsanto Co. (MON.N: Quote, Profile, Research)

The wheat has been altered so it can withstand Roundup, a Monsanto herbicide. Regulators have not said how long their review will take.

The Canadian Wheat Board, which has a monopoly on most of Canada's wheat crop, has said government approvals would put most of its markets in jeopardy.

But Monsanto has promised it will wait to commercialize its wheat until it can keep it segregated from traditional grain and find customers who will buy it.

It has also promised it will not commercialize the wheat until regulators in the United States and Japan have also approved it.

"We recognize that there will be buyers who show a preference for non-biotech wheat," said Trish Jordan, a spokeswoman for Monsanto Canada.

"So what we're trying to do ... is to set up a system that maintains choice for all buyers," she said.

The company has made its final submissions of regulatory data in Canada and the United States. It has also submitted preliminary safety data to Japan and several other countries, Jordan said.

"Even though we're a long way away from commercial introduction, there should be no reason why Japan cannot continue to buy Canadian wheat," Jordan said.

The Japanese delegates said millers had told them it would be too difficult and expensive to segregate GM wheat from traditional wheat.

"Millers have therefore said that unless Japanese consumers ... accept (genetically modified) wheat, they will not be able to sell it," said Koga Masaka of Consumers Union of Japan.

The delegates planned to take their petition to Ottawa on Tuesday and then to state legislatures in Montana and North Dakota later in the week.


GM Giant Abandons Bid To Grow Crops In Britain

The Independent
By Andrew Clennell
March 31, 2004

In a huge blow to the genetically modified food lobby, Bayer Cropscience has given up attempts to grow commercial GM maize in Britain.

The decision, blamed by the company on government restrictions, means no GM crop will be grown commercially in the UK in 2005 and raises questions about the future of GM in this country.

The German biotechnology company will announce today that its maize variety Chardon LL, which was to be developed as cattle feed, had been left "economically non-viable" because of conditions set by the Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett when she gave limited approval to the growing of the crop this month.

A spokesman for the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said last night: "We do not apologise for the fact there is a tough EU-wide regulatory regime on GMs. This is a commercial decision made by Bayer and they have decided to withdraw their application, [which means] there will not be any commercial cultivation of GM crops in 2005 in the UK.

"In the current climate in the EU, with member states' strong views on these matters, there's little prospect of any GM crops coming forward for consideration in the near future. We always said it would be for the market to decide [the future of GM]."

There were suggestions last night that GM crops were unlikely to be grown in the UK until 2008, when GM oil seed rape may be approved for cultivation.

Bayer's decision will be seen as a huge win for the former environment minister Michael Meacher and green groups.

Chardon LL, which Bayer had wanted to commercially grow, was developed for approval in 1999. It is already grown in the Netherlands.

A Bayer spokesman confirmed the imminent withdrawal of its application to grow in the UK last night. The company told The Financial Times the UK's tough GM regulatory regime could jeopardise the industry. It said: "New regulations should enable GM crops to be grown in the UK - not disable future attempts to grow them."

Chardon LL gained approval after trials showed it caused less damage to wildlife than its conventional equivalent, but ministers have not yet decided rules for mixing GM and non-GM crops and what compensation might be paid for contamination by GM pollen.

Bayer said: "These uncertainties and undefined timelines will make this five-year-old variety economically unviable."

Only three weeks ago in parliament, Ms Beckett controversially announced her decision to allow Bayer to go ahead with its maize project. The decision came after 15 years of field trials and four years of farm-scale evaluations.

Ms Beckett told the Commons the GM maize could be grown as soon as next year and said non-GM farmers who suffered financial losses because of crop contamination would be compensated by the industry, not the taxpayer.

At the time, Mr Meacher said: "This is the wrong decision. It is driven by the commercial interests of the big biotech companies and, no doubt, pressure from the White House."


Western Australia Bans All GM Crops

By Michael Byrnes
New Zealand Herald
March 24, 2004

Australia's largest state, Western Australia, says it will ban the growing of all genetically modified (GM) crops.

The state is a major producer of wheat, barley, canola and pulses.

Australia so far produces only cotton and carnations as GM crops, but last year the federal Gene Technology Regulator approved the growing of genetically modified canola, used for cooking oil.

State governments, however, have the power to ban GM crops for marketing purposes.

All Australian state governments where canola is grown have moratoriums on GM crops, although New South Wales will soon consider an undisclosed decision by an advisory council on whether a large-scale commercial trial crop may be planted this season.

Western Australian Premier Geoff Gallop said yesterday that GM crops would be banned so the state's farmers could continue to market GM-free produce and to seek out new markets with confidence.

This also reflected overwhelming public opinion in Western Australia and consumer sentiment around the world, he said.

"During the last three years public opinion in Western Australia has further strengthened against the intrusion of GM technology into the food chain," Gallop said.

An over-riding argument to embrace GM technology in food production may emerge in the future, he added.

Western Australia's agricultural food sector contributes A$9.2 billion ($10.5 billion) to the state's economy and employs 10 per cent of its workforce.

The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (Abare) is forecasting that in the 2003-04 year Western Australia will produce 610,000 tonnes of canola in a national crop of 1.6 million tonnes.

New South Wales is forecast to produce 282,000 tonnes.

Australia is the second-largest canola exporter in the world, after Canada, whose crop is mainly genetically modified.

However, Australia exports only small amounts of canola to Europe, which does not import GM product.

Western Australia is also forecast to produce 10.7 million tonnes of wheat this year in a national crop of 24.9 million tonnes, and 3 million tonnes of barley in a national crop of 8.5 million tonnes.

GM wheat is generally not seen as being produced in the near-term because of complex science and its status as a staple food.

Anti-GM campaigner GeneEthics Network called on other Australian states to follow Western Australia in banning GM crops.

Bayer CropScience, which produces GM crops, said Western Australian farmers and the environment would be the biggest losers.

Victoria Opts For Four-year GM Moratorium

ABC News Online (Australia)
March 25, 2004

The Victorian Government has imposed a four-year moratorium on commercial crops of genetically modified (GM) canola.

The current three-year GM moratorium expires in May.

The new legislation will allow for scientific and research trials of GM crops.

Victoria is Australia's largest dairy exporter and exports more than $1 billion of grain each year.

Premier Steve Bracks says the state's producers must have certainty and security.

"Our clean, green image in accord with what happens in the rest of Australia primarily will continue in the future as well," he said.

"I think that's a great benefit. Yes, it's a cautious approach, but why wouldn't you be cautious with $3.5 billion of export."

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